Former rectory of disputed village church sold

WELLSVILLE – The home on Riverside Avenue that once served as housing for priests at Immaculate Conception Church in Wellsville has been sold by the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown to a village resident.

The former rectory was purchased by Joseph “Jay” Pappas for $24,000 on March 7 and was officially recorded with the county auditor’s office on Monday. The Review was unable to contact Pappas to ask about his plans for the building.

Kenny Biacco, a member of the Committee to Save Immaculate Conception Church, says he and his colleagues knew that people had been looking at the property and weren’t alarmed by the prospect of its sale, as their focus has been on rescuing the church itself.

Following a July 2012 ruling by the Vatican’s Congregation of the Clergy in Rome, which overruled the diocese’s decision to close ICC as a house of worship, the church building itself has been protected from such a fate.

“It doesn’t really affect us,” Biacco said. “We’ve won our battle, basically: They can never sell that church.”

The same does not apply to the rectory or the former convent building next door to the church on Main Street. “We weren’t fighting for those buildings. All we’re fighting for is our church,” he said.

According to Biacco, the old convent hasn’t been occupied by the Ursuline nuns who formerly lived there since the 1980s, and the rectory has sat unoccupied for more than a decade. He noted that both have been vacant for so long, the buyer of either building would likely need to invest much time and money on renovation work to make them livable again.

The diocese could also sell the church parking lot, upon which Immaculate Conception School and the original rectory stood before both were closed and torn down approximately 35 years ago. Biacco says the committee hopes the parking lot is kept in case the church is finally permitted to open for the weekly Masses that members are still pressing for. If not, however, he believes there is ample street parking surrounding the church to handle attendees.

Originally constructed as a private home in 1880, the sprawling two-story house that became the Immaculate Conception rectory overlooks the Ohio River, and has seven bedrooms and three bathrooms spread over 3,412 square feet.